The 'Language' of e-Learning: Approaches to Learning and the Potential of Internet-based Technologies

Ms. Lisa Galarneau
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History shows that it is human nature to first attempt to use new technologies within old paradigms. Early motion pictures were no more than the filming of stage plays. Early television showed actors reading radio plays. The first cars were called 'horseless carriages.' And so, too, early e-Learning was only conceived of as textbooks and classrooms online, all a direct translation of physical paradigms into new virtual realities.

It has been said that new media must find their own language, yet it is our custom to evolve iteratively, even with a new technology. Great revolutions are often silent and only apparent in hind-sight. Or they are proclaimed great revolutions long before we have any hint at all of what the real changes will be. As Ray Amara of the Institute for the Future observes, "We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run."

In the midst of the e-Learning revolution, it is difficult to step back and imagine its impact in say, 20 or 50 years. Yet it is a critical aspect of understanding whether we are allowing the effects of these technologies to realise their potential, or are we shoe-horning them into existing pedagogies and instructional methods? To understand the learning potential that new technologies suggest means understanding them when they are leveraged in a natural setting. What are the social and cultural phenomena that accompany them, when stripped of artificial device and left to flourish on their own? What is the language of this medium?

"A new medium is never an addition to an old one, nor does it leave the old one in peace. It never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and positions for them." Marshall McLuhan, 1964.

Keywords: Learning, Training, Education, Constructivism, Social Constructivism, Community, Online Communities, E-Learning
Stream: Technology in Education
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Ms. Lisa Galarneau

Doctoral Student, Department of Screen and Media Studies, The University of Waikato
New Zealand

Lisa Galarneau is currently a doctoral student in New Zealand's University of Waikato Screen and Media Studies department. Leveraging her previous academic work in education and anthropology, as well as extensive experience in online learning design and development, her research is looking at spontaneous communities of learning in massively multiplayer roleplaying games. In addition, Lisa works as a consultant for Synapsys New Zealand, Ltd. (, an educational/training design consultancy and solutions developer. Much of her work involves collaborating with a wide range of industry and education-sector clients and utilising a variety of interactive media (including games) in the design of engaging, effective learning experiences.

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